How To Choose A Web Designer: The Ultimate Guide
Web Design Is The Foundation Of Your Business
You have decided that hiring a web designer, now what? There are hundreds if not thousands of “website designers”, so how do you choose which website designer to hire?
Choosing a website designer is much like choosing the right car for you. You will need to do some research, figure out your needs and make sure to find a company that fulfills those needs.
In order to choose wisely, you have to know exactly what you need, rather than attempting to guess your needs or settle for less than you need.
Use this checklist to start with your project…
- How many website pages
- E-Commerce or standard website?
- Optimized for search engine optimization?
- Do you need a web developer or designer?
- Will you need graphic design work?
- Displaying products or services?
- Social Media integration?
As with any business decision, you must forget the idea of “best” and go with what you actually need your requirements, and your company’s goals. Once you have figured out your needs and goals your best option will appear. Choosing a website designer through elimination based your goals will result in having a website that meets all your needs and achieves your goals.
Here are some things to look for when deciding which website designer to go with.
They Listen to Your Ideas and Have Their Own
Since you already know your industry, unless you are starting out and haven’t done your research. If the later is you, please stop reading and do some research on your market, target audience, and industry. However, most likely you are an expert in your industry. You know what you’re selling, and you have an inkling of how you need to present it to your potential customers.
That being said, a great web design company should have a marketing department that knows about your industry to be able to create a website. If the web design company doesn’t listen to your ideas, you might be wasting your time and there’s no point continuing building a relationship with them. Your designer will need to be able to put your ideas into action while being able to suggest their own ideas that correlate to your business needs through design. Your designer should be able to bring to life your website ideas to life.
Define Your Website's Technology Needs
This is a critical step when choosing a website design company and even which designer within that company you will work with. A pure-play web designer doesn’t work with HTML/CSS or other traditional web languages.
In actuality, a pure-play designer works with Photoshop and focuses on branding, color palettes, imagery, and end-user experience. They will often work with front-end developers to implement their design. The website that the user sees and interacts with is called the front-end. Front-end developers will know web languages and will be comfortable with “back-end” technologies such as databases, scripts, and generally makes sure the computers are all talking to each other correctly.
Now that you understand the different roles that are needed when designing a website, you must hire someone that is an expert in one, knowledgeable in the other and familiar with the third. It is better to have a Master of one than a Jack of all trades when it comes to website design companies. This is why hiring an agency that has three different divisions is better. You will end up with a team that understands the minutia of each part of the website build.
Define Your Design Needs
When it comes to designing your website, you need to have a vague idea of what you want. However, vague concepts are difficult to understand and when to describe can be perceived as completely different than what was originally intended.
Therefore, it is better to start looking at your competitor’s websites and pinpoint what you like and don’t like. Draw out your idea if you don’t see it on other websites. Even if your drawing is basic, it will be more specific than using vague terms.
The right web designer will talk you through your design, explain certain features and looks as well as make sure you like the choices at every stage. They look for feedback on design concepts, as well what is most important to you. The reason for knowing what is most important is when it comes to the budget they have to know where to cut and where to prioritize.
Responsive Website Design
Responsive design is not a fad, it is a way of life. Google ranks websites based off of Responsive designs. If a web design agency is not able to create a responsive design, you might as well just say “Next.”
The same answer should be if they suggest a separate mobile website instead of responsive design. If you are not familiar with the difference between responsive designs and separate mobile website you can read “What is mobile optimization for web design”.
As stated in the post, there are some cases that having a separate mobile site is advantageous, but the preferred solution is a responsive design. The right designer will know that mobile and tablet usage is continuing to increase, and will understand the need for a responsive design.
Keeping Up with the Modern Design Trends
Just like the outdated 8-track, you don’t want to have a website that is outdated in design or information. A web designer is abreast of the latest technology and design trends and how they affect SEO. Consumers are more likely to trust a business if their website looks modern, clean and is easy to navigate.
There are several popular design trends in 2019, a few are parallax scrolling, flat design, responsive design, and tons of styles and elements. Of course, a great web designer knows when a design is merely a fad and knows how to create a trendy, timeless and user-focused website.
The web design agency should also have an in-house marketing team, designers and developers. This trio will not only give you an amazing website, but they would also assist in creating marketing campaigns through pay-per-click ads or through thorough SEO. You should confirm that they have the ability for the following services…
- Search Engine Optimization
- Social Media Marketing
- Pay Per Click Marketing
- Email Marketing
- Graphic Design
- Content Marketing
Portfolio of Live Websites and Conversions
Web designers can talk the talk, but you want to make sure they can walk the walk. The best way to determine if they know their stuff is to look at previous websites. Do not trust screenshots of homepages, but actually go to that site itself. You will want to take time to look through their portfolio and visit the sites they designed. This is a great way to judge their work to see if it meets your aesthetic if it doesn’t then you might want to find a different designer.
A good web design company should be able to speak strongly about their
- Market Research
- Target Markets
- Target Customers
- Conversion Rates
- Search Engine Results
They should be able to speak about those three for the various websites in their portfolio. Being able to design a website that converts means they understand proper layouts, navigations, and calls to actions. The designer that you choose will need to use data and proven methods to create a website with a high conversion rate. Don’t settle for “good enough” or “if it looks ok they’ll convert” ideologies, they don’t work and they are a waste of your marketing budget.
In a growing market of “do it yourself-ers”, you will find many fly-by-night web design companies, you want to make sure the company you choose for your website is one that has the ability to stick around.
That doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t trust new companies, it just means you need to be careful and make sure the newer companies are able to adapt to the changing markets and demands of Google Algorithms.
The more experience a design company has, the more like they are to be adaptable and change with new trends on the internet. The more adaptable and forward-thinking they are, the more likely they’ll be around next year to help support your new website.
Experience in More Than One Industry
If might seem like a great idea to have a web design company that specializes in on a niche market. However, that is not an ideal company you want to work with since you most likely will end up with a website that is indistinguishable from other websites in that niche. You’ll want to look for a web design company that works with a wide variety of industries. This ensures they are more likely to create a unique website that will reach a bigger audience. Your website has to be unique and stand above the competition, not be twinning.
Another important checkbox is to make sure that the company can work at your level. Meaning, they are familiar with local businesses or national businesses. Don’t limit yourself to an agency that focuses solely on local small businesses, if you do you will run the risk of outgrowing them or worse having your success stunted.
The more audiences your web designer knows, the better your odds that your website will help you achieve your business goals. Find a designer who can think both big and small in terms of website design and audience.
Define Your Business Needs
The most important part of designing the website is knowing your business needs.
- What role your website serves in your business, is it informational, an online store.
- Can you make reservations or do you provide services?
You will need to think about what you want to achieve by having the website and convey this to the design team.
Ask for Proposals
Asking for a proposal is not something to shy away from. You should be talking to several companies and comparing what they can do for you and what they are will be charging. In the proposal, it should have provided a ballpark budget. It is not the end cost– that will come when you sign the agreement and will much more detailed.
Request Contract & Project Plan (and declines)
Once you receive a proposal that you approve the next step would be getting a contract and a project plan. Having tangible expectations and timelines in writing will help with making sure items and needs are met. The contract should spell out “deliverables”, costs, responsibilities, intellectual property rights, and an adjudicating body.
A project plan helps all parties involved and understand the expectations, responsibilities, and timelines. It does not have to be complicated and should communicate clearly though who is responsible for what and when.
Lastly, out of respect for the designers that you did not choose, be sure to send a polite decline. It can be as simple as “Thank you for providing this information. We have decided to work with another company. We will keep your company in mind for future project & referrals.” This will save everyone time from needless follow-ups and is more professional if you have to work with them in the future.
Follow up & Communicate Clearly
Communication is key when dealing with designers regarding your website. Since the website is going to be yours, you need to make sure you have all the needed information to make the best decisions. You want to make sure that you hold the technical documentation, and that you keep track of all technical issues. Remember that the design work depends on fast and accurate feedback if you don’t like something say it, quickly and clearly.
Choosing a website designer does not have to be daunting. It does require a lot of thinking and research prior to even reaching out to website design companies. You have to understand what you want when you want and you must clearly communicate your expectations because if you don’t there will be frustration on all ends.
Alternate Next Steps
Even if you found this post useful, but looking at your budget you can’t afford to hire a customer quality website designer, there are options.
DIY with a Website Builder
There are companies who specialize in working with businesses that have a small budget and no design or technical expertise. They provide hosting and pre-made templates all for a single monthly subscription. You might not get all the functionality that you want, or the diversity and creativeness but you will get a secure, fast, good looking website. Sites like Godaddy.com or Bluehost.com
DIY Website with Self-Hosted WordPress
WordPress is an incredibly versatile content management system. It’s free software that you install on a hosting account (ie, you rent part of a server from a hosting company). You get to choose your themes and pages, and it is very much a plug and play type of program. The software has a learning curve, but you’ll have 100% control and 100% of your options open. You’ll also be able to call in specific experts on specific problems.
Purchase Website Design from a Hosting Company
This option is a blend of the first two if you want full control over your site with unlimited options for the future. If you don’t want the learning curve when you are setting up a design yourself, then you can sometimes purchase website design services from a hosting company.
Web Design Wrap-Up
When it comes to designing a website, it is important to make sure that you are using the best company for your business, your personality and someone that you trust. Just because a company is “cheap” doesn’t mean they will do a bad job, just like a company that is “expensive” won’t do the best job out there. You have to make sure your wants and needs are clearly explained and that the company you choose to work with will listen to your needs.